Official unemployment in Greece is more than 16 percent and climbing as working people here face some of the sharpest blows being dealt by capitalist governments in Europe and beyond.
My father has worked at the state-owned aircraft company since he was 24, said Pissanou. He was just told he is one of thousands who will be let go. Now what? The government and the mentality of the country are to blame. But I am also starting to think that something much bigger, not only to us in Greece, is happening which I have not yet figured out.
The government of George Papandreou has already imposed two rounds of stiff austerity measures, which have had a devastating effect on working people and large sections of the middle classes. The measures were taken under pressure from the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank, and European Commissionthe so-called troikain exchange for massive loans to ensure payments to holders of Greek government bonds. Among those that stand to lose the most in the event of a default on interest payments are banks in France and Germany, Europes strongest capitalist powers.
As default by the Greek government appears increasingly inevitable, the Greek cabinet is proposing another $8.8 billion in cuts to the 2012 budget. The plan includes the transfer of 30,000 public workers to a special labor reserve at drastically reduced pay, government wage cuts by as much as 40 percent, deeper slashes of pensions and more taxes for working people.
The cabinets budget proposal still falls short of targets demanded by the troika, which will decide whether they are satisfied with the austerity measures being taken to extend more loans.
The Greek economy is expected to shrink by another 5.5 percent this year, according to CNNMoney. The austerity-mounting measures only serve to accelerate the contraction of the economy.
A number of 24-hour and 48-hour strikes have been organized in response to the newest measures, a continuation of the tactic of short finite actions that began last year. The latest strikes by public transport workers and taxi drivers were held September 27-28, shutting down public transportation. Public sector unions have called for a strike October 5 and the union federations are calling for a general strike October 19.
I went to a couple of actions, but now Ive stopped, said Pissanou. They dont seem to be doing anything. People are losing their pay, getting exhausted.
Work is down about 70 percent for us, explained Omar Ismail, a Syrian construction worker living on the Greek island of Crete, in a phone interview. Many Syrian workers have been forced to send their wife or children back to Syria.
I have gone to strike actions in recent months, but most of us dont. The problem is we are divided, Greek against foreigner, in other ways too. These divisions increase the power of the exploiters.
Real unemployment will soon rise above 20 percent and this gives the bosses the ability to apply unbearable pressures, Nikos Gourlas told the Militant. Gourlas works in one of the shops at the Athens International Airport and is president of the newly formed Airport Workers Union. At several companies airport workers have not been paid for months. We are in fights for the enforcement of basic labor laws.
Their whole system is rotting, thats why they take these measures against us, said Michael Aggelopoulos, 36, a ramp worker at the airport here. We have no other choice but to strike and protest. But only with a massive response could we stop them.
Bobbis Misailides and Natasha Terlexis both work at the Athens airport and contributed to this article.
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